A new report on online child sexual abuse in Uganda by UNICEF has recommended that there be legislation articulating the obligations of Internet Service Providers (ISP) in respect of mandatory reporting of violations and abuse.
This according to Laura Fragiacomo, a UNICEF child protection specialist will help protect children against sexual exploitation online.
The study, yet to be launched, is dubbed: ‘The Main Results of Scoping Study on Online Child Sexual Abuse in Uganda’.
Presenting to a team of experts on the protection against sexual exploitation of children online at Hotel Africana on Tuesday, Fragiacomo said there was need to address industry obligations including to report violations and abuse, data protection, storage, retention obligations, filtering of illegal internet content and spam.
“With a young growing population coupled with the rise in internet, penetration, the number of people exposed to the risk of child sexual exploitation is growing even larger,” she said adding that the current growth rate of children accessing the internet is at 37%, making it high.
Fragiacomo said UNICEF procured a firm in South Africa to carry out a study on child sexual abuse in Uganda that was done last year.
Although current interventions like the child help line, child and family protection unit and civil society organisations are in place to curb the vice, the report recommends that ISPs engage more in the development of innovative solutions, aside from filtering systems, to increase awareness.
The study also recognizes the fact that Computer Misuse Act although in place, does not address requirements for the retention and preservation of service provider data.
The meeting was organised by the Uganda Youth Development Link (UYDEL) whose mission is to enhance socio-economic transformation of disadvantaged young people through skills development and self-reliance in collaboration with ECPAT France, a Non-Governmental Organisation that aims at ending child prostitution, pornography and trafficking of children for sexual purposes.
Rogers Kasirye the Executive Director UYDEL said many young people who are recruited as maids and bars tenders end up being used as pornography agents against their will, saying it is a gate way to prostitution and sexual exploitation.
Leroy Voigunie the country representative, French Development Agency representing Stephanie Rivoal the French Ambassador to Uganda at the event said the need for action against online child sexual abuse and exploitation at the national level is imperative.
“This is because self-generated sexual material (including sexting: the self-production and sharing of sexual messages or images) is becoming increasingly widespread and the production of child abuse material is organised on a commercial basis, often with no prosecution of offenders,” she said.
Bill Ndyamuhaki, the deputy assistant superintendent of police at the electronic counter measures department said mobile phones have increasingly fuelled child pornography.
“It has become a trend for parents to hand their gadgets to children with data that makes them vulnerable to pornographic content,” he said.
Nikoleta Lydaki from ECPAT France proposed the use of innovation solutions like PhotoDNA, a software machine developed by Microsoft and is used by law enforcement agencies throughout the world free of charge to detect and block images of child pornography instantly.